I never thought politics would make me cry.
Last week, America’s children were told (yet again) that a woman cannot become president of the United States. They were told that being sexist and racist and crudely offensive can be okay – as long as you are able to talk yourself out of it or cover up your actions with other junk. They were told that hate can be an acceptable trait in the leader of their country and that fear can sometimes conquer.
For a brief window of time, women across the world stood holding their breath; on the verge of releasing an enormous collective sigh of relief that had been building up for centuries. Ready to watch that glass ceiling finally being shattered to pieces. Instead, we let out a collective gasp of horror and heartbreak as the realization hit that, among other things that this event symbolized, there was still more brutal fight ahead. What would and should have been a chance for us to rest our feet and take a breath turned into the nastiest slap in the face that anyone could have ever imagined, accompanied by a sharp kick back into the arena. It was a wake-up call letting us know that our time still was not here. There is still much more fighting and clawing to be done. And that is devastating. As journalist Lindy West puts it so beautifully simply: “…I’m so tired, and every woman I know is so tired.”
In every election – presidential or otherwise – there are millions of people who are disappointed by the outcome. This time is different. People are devastated. They are shell-shocked. They are distraught. They are frightened. My sister, eighteen-years-old, a newly registered voter, has had to endure this beating as the experience of her first election; as have thousands of other first-time voters. She said that “no words can describe how disempowered, sad, fearful, and confused I am feeling”. This is not normal.
I never thought politics would make me cry.
But this is about so much more than politics. This was a test of humanity; a test of our current status as a nation – and we failed, big time. We gave in to fear instead of facing it. We let hate take over, even though libraries worth of history should have taught us otherwise. I say “we” because although I did not cast a vote in favor of fear and hate, I am still a citizen of a country that did and I must acknowledge that at some level, somewhere down the line, a piece of that responsibility became mine. I do not yet understand how that is, but I intend to do all that I can to find out.
I am sad. I’m angry. I’m confused. I’m afraid. My heart is broken. I thought I would be relieved to find myself ‘safely’ in Canada while all of this was unfolding. Instead, on top of everything else I feel estranged and isolated from it all. I feel like I have been dumped, or someone has died. I’ve found myself shaking internally; from rage or grief, I sometimes can hardly tell which. I can’t focus on anything that takes more than minimal brain power. It is heart-shattering, belief-rattling, cold, hard grief of which I have never felt before.
All week I have been trying to fathom the masses of millions of people who cast their votes for fear. Who were able to convince themselves to overlook all of the atrocities of the campaign that came out victorious. I am trying to comprehend how there could possibly still be this amount of hate and bigotry concentrated within the “greatest country in the world”. I am trying to empathize, to put myself in the shoes of those who can somehow bypass the fact that this man has threatened to violate the rights of millions of other Americans. And I must admit that I have not gotten very far because it hurts too much.
But there is a ray of light amidst all of the despair. Despite all of these overwhelmingly horrible feelings, I have been astounded by the amount of love and determination and strength and fight that has surfaced and has been spilling out across social media since last Tuesday. The immediate response of solidarity is inspiring. The rage and hurt will not fade away quickly; nor do we want it to. But the love can at least be present to combat it and help us heal so that we can be stronger. Now is when we show our true colors. Responding to hate with hate has never produced any outcome other than more hate and fear. The test of humanity is never over. It is going to be tough as hell – it already has been. But the incredible thing about tragedy is the sheer number of people who are involved and who have your back. Use your people for support – you will need them. Use your voice – it is your strongest and most resilient weapon. This is a conversation that cannot fade away.
Grieving is necessary. But for it to be truly meaningful, it must be followed up with action. If something hurts, you fight back. That looks like this: a promise that I will not bang my fists against the wall without the intention of paying forward a kindness when I leave the room. A vow that I will not cry myself to sleep unless I am prepared to wake up in the morning and start fighting even harder.
“Tell your daughters that Hillary Clinton didn’t fail. No way forward was ever paved with a sweeping victory, but with backbreaking struggle and sober retrospect. History will hold her up and so should we.”
– Brandi Carlile